Trial by Fire: A Devastating Tragedy, 100 Lives Lost, and a 15-Year Search for Truth

Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781250131263. $29.99. CRIME
In 2003 the Station nightclub, in West Warwick, RI, went up in flames during a concert by the heavy metal group Great White. Illegal pyrotechnics, improper flammable insulation, and high attendance resulted in tragedy, killing 100 and injuring more than 200. For journalist and novelist James (The Sower), everyone is a victim—including club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who served less than three years in prison after a plea agreement to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. The author, a friend and former colleague of Jeffrey Derderian, offers a compelling account of those who survived with horrific injuries, the anguish suffered by the families of the dead, and the impact on the prosecuted parties.
VERDICT While James makes incisive points about the media, faulty fire codes, ambitious prosecutors, and sloppy commercial practice, his book is more defense brief than balanced recounting. To get the other side of the story, readers should turn first to John Barylick’s Killer Show, an attorney who represented victims in wrongful death and personal injury suits related to the fire.

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